By Vinay Solanki
Technology has the answer to every worldly problem for those who are still optimistic and are looking for solutions. One such area of concern is the increasing road accident rate.
Accidents are increasing at an alarming rate in the world and especially in India. Around 1,37,000 people were killed in road accidents in 2013 alone, a number which is more than the number of people killed in all the wars together. The reasons are pretty well known, ranging from bad road conditions, over speeding, poor street lighting to road rage, drunken driving and improper road designs. Two wheelers account for 25% of the total accidents in India. India comes on top if one consults the statistics.
The metropolitan cities in India are competing with each other to become accident capitals in the world.
It really scares me to take my car out, especially when I observe the style of driving, people cutting lanes, autos driving in the wrong direction and traffic signals being abused without any monitoring from the traffic police. Highways, even though expanding in the number of lanes are still as unsafe, with no proper signage, trucks breaking bylaws, motorists driving at their own speed limit, all resulting in very dangerous driving scenarios. It seems roads are turning into ‘maut ka kuan’.
Now, let’s see how various technology based solutions under the umbrella of IoT/M2M can help to reduce the accident rates or at least help better manage emergencies during accidents. . In case you are not familiar with the concept of IoT or M2M, or what it means for a layman, then please first have a quick look here: Explaining IoT to a Layman.
For bikers, whether they are on a motorcycle or bicycle, it is imperative for them to wear a helmet. But what if there is a smarter helmet that also communicates with the drivers of other vehicles? For instance, a helmet having LED lights connected with the bike handle (through Bluetooth or some low energy communication protocol), which turn RED when the breaks are applied on bicycle. The LEDs on the left or right side of the helmet blink when the bicycle makes a left or a right turn respectively. Also, how about fitting a GPS between a smart phone and the helmet which can allow bikers to project directions on the road?
Most importantly, the helmet can be connected to a smart phone and in the case of an accident, the sensor connected on helmet can sense easily and send a message to relatives or family members, whose contact details are configured inside the phone app.
Look at the basic smart helmet demonstration developed by two college kids, who are part of IoT-NCR open community, a crude solution, but it shows that at only INR 3000 they were able to build a prototype. On a larger scale this solution can be made economical and affordable for the riders.
Connected Cars and Connected Highways
As per a research, almost 80% of cars coming in the market from January, 2018, onwards would have an embedded module that will allow the car to be connected with the owner as well as the manufacturer.
Once your car or vehicle is connected to the internet and to you through a mobile app, there can be easy information exchange both ways, which can tremendously help in managing road accidents. One of the basic pros is informing your near and dear ones in case your car meets with an accident.
But let’s for a minute think about how connected cars and connected highways can help prevent or minimise accidents. Due to the heavy fog in the winters, recently on one of the express highways between Delhi and Agra, 50 cars banged into each other. A connected highway and car could have sensed the congestion/accident when the first two cars bumped into each other and immediately the information via a central server could have reached the other vehicles warning them about their proximity to the accident location. This is possible if all cars have an RFID chip that is read by an RFID reader at the toll gate. The system then knows which car entered the highway and adds them to the notification database, when the car leaves the highway through an exit or the last toll then a similar reader can remove it from the system. Cameras on the light poles or the RFID on the car which met with the accident can communicate to the backend with information about its status.
Another feature I can think of is Auto lock built into the car to avoid over speeding, where if the speed goes over 100 km/hr on a 60 km/hr lane, the car would then gradually slow down the first time, and if it goes over again, then it will slow down and send a warning message to the driver. And third time, this violation can result in the car being locked down and a message sent to the nearest patrolling station or to the cops to handle the situation.
TCS presented the connected car concept, which highlights some of the areas and important points.
Smart Traffic Management
Traffic blockages can be managed in a better way too. For example, how about traffic lights dynamically changing the timing of RED/GREEN/YELLOW based on the traffic in the connecting lanes?
Also, these solutions can help the patrolling policemen to catch the violators easily and also charge them penalty through an automated/integrated payments system. This not only helps to catch the outliers but also reduces the bribe culture, which is prevalent in India. The Delhi government during the odd-even rule was not only able to collect a huge amount of fines, but was also able to reduce the traffic on the road, so how about a technology based solution that allows them to catch the offenders, while automatically collecting fine?
Look at this video which very well explains smarter transport by Sarah Mitchell from IBM.
I see immense potential in IoT and M2M based solutions to help cities and governments reduce accident rates and, more importantly, help end consumers save lives. $11 billion worth of fuel is wasted during traffic jams and I don’t know how we can ever calculate the monetary value of the time wasted.